Original Fiction: Side Step

Original Fiction: Side Step
January 18 13:40 2017 Print This Article

By Odie Flynn

 

 

Bob Kinski had a pretty normal life until he started running into himself at Starbucks.

Bob grew up and went to high school in Glendale, California, where he was in a band that played crap covers of grunge songs, had a couple of girlfriends, didn’t participate in sports, and graduated near the top of his class in 1995. From there he went to college, where he stared nervously at his professors for the first three years before he finally gave up trying to figure out what he wanted to do and settled on accounting.  After graduation, Bob headed out into the workforce and was successfully turned down by all the best studios in Hollywood and finally ended up working for a couple of sketchy adult film companies in the Valley who had terrible bookkeepers and generally made his life miserable.

Worse than his work life was his personal life. Bob had found it difficult to relate to people since he was in high school, and he wasn’t too interested in going out for drinks with the smut-peddlers with bad accounting practices he worked with, so, Bob stayed to himself and spent most of his time working number puzzles or studying statistics at his local coffee spot. He found that he enjoyed the noise of being around people almost as much as he enjoyed how studiously they ignored him.

And then something weird happened.

He was working out a Sudoku over a cup of coffee one afternoon when he noticed that a man in the far corner of the shop was nonchalantly watching him. That wasn’t so strange – it was, after all, Hollywood, and people watched each other at coffee shops all the time, it was something you had to get used to. What was strange was that the man, except for dressing entirely differently, having a different hair style, different glasses and being ten or fifteen pounds lighter, looked exactly like Bob. He’d noticed him lurking one day in the parking lot as he was leaving but thought little of it; he’d heard a statistic once that for each face on the planet there are, on average, seven more just like it. In truth, Bob was immediately distracted by a desire to run the numbers on the odds that his twin had grown up in the area and by the time he remembered the odd stranger, he was gone. After this, he saw the man two more times at the same Starbucks, in the late afternoon, but instead of talking to the man, he instead decided to change his routine to see if he if spotted him again. For several weeks Bob showed up at different times and stayed for different a duration each time, but the stranger seemed to have disappeared.

Until his birthday.

Bob didn’t care much about his birthday; growing up his family just never made a huge deal about them. Parties were mostly he and his parents and his younger sister, a cake, appropriate numbers of candles, a gift, maybe going out to watch a film, but it just wasn’t much of a big deal. The highlights were, in order, a Big Wheel when he was five, a Nintendo at twelve, his dad’s old bass guitar and amp when he turned fourteen, and a second hand Toyota when he turned seventeen. Other than that it was a blurry jumble of new shoes, books, and calculators he needed for school. But after high school, his birthday never really came up anymore, other than a call from his mother and less often his father, and later an annual email from his sister, Terri.

So when, on his thirty-sixth birthday, someone he didn’t know bought him a cup of coffee, it caught his attention.

Bob was flipping through a pile of receipts from one of his clients while waiting for his turn at the counter when the barista informed him that his regular order had already been paid for. At first, Bob thought that it was one of those annoying “pay it forward” things that Hollywood people are so fond of doing but he hated because it made him feel awkward because he didn’t really want to buy coffee and pastries for strangers.

“Nope!” Said the chipper barista. She pointed across the shop in the direction of the corner table usually occupied by Bob’s doppelganger. Her face fell a little when she saw that the man was gone.

“Sorry,” she shrugged. “I guess he had to go. Is he your brother or something?”

Bob didn’t answer, he just took his cup and walked toward his usual spot, but someone with a laptop was sitting there so he took up another roost. He stared at the coffee for a long time without drinking it.

“Maybe he’s into you,” said the bookkeeper of Caligula’s Fist Productions the next day when Bob came to collect the rest of their receipts. Larry was his name, and he was the closest thing that Bob had to a friend, so he’d relayed the story to him to see if he could help him sort it out.

Bob hadn’t thought of that.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said. Could it be that simple?

“I don’t see why not,” Larry said as he dug through a shoe box full of receipts. “You’re a good looking guy. Maybe he’s just shy, you know? Not everyone’s comfortable just walking up and saying ‘hi’, you know?”

Bob shrugged and nodded, but it didn’t seem like that was the answer. The cup of mystery coffee really screwed with his head, so much so that he quit going to that Starbucks for a couple of weeks.  It was just too much of a coincidence that the incident occurred on his birthday.

Three weeks later, it got really, really weird, and Bob decided to do something about it.

He’d been avoiding his regular haunt in Hollywood and going to a completely different chain place in Los Feliz when he walked in and saw the mysterious stranger sitting in a corner, facing the door.

The stranger grinned. Then he waved.

Bob wasn’t sure what to do, so he bought a cup of coffee and a scone, took a breath, and walked over to the stranger’s table.

“Have a seat, Bob,” the man said – with Bob’s voice.

Bob stiffened briefly but quickly relaxed; once he gave it a little thought he realized that he would have probably been more upset if the stranger looked like him but sounded like Barry White or something.

Bob slid out a chair and sat down. The coffee cup felt oddly cold in his hands.

“You probably have some questions,” said the stranger.

Bob scowled.

“Yeah,” Bob growled. “How’d you know it was my birthday?”

The stranger tried to suppress a grin.

“Bob, we’re going to need to do this in stages,” he replied. “Because you’re going to have a hard time with what I have to say.”

Bob stared at him – he took a deep breath.

“Are you real?” Bob asked. “Or are you early onset dementia or something?”

The stranger nodded.

“Good first question,” he said. “Of course, just because I say ‘yes’ doesn’t mean a whole lot, does it? I mean, what hallucination ever says ‘oh, yeah sorry, I’m totally fake’?”

Bob thought about it, then shook it off.

“No, I guess you must be real. Other people have seen you, you bought me coffee the other day.”

“Yeah, but could be you imagined that, too,” the stranger replied. “And that was on your birthday, none-the-less, so it makes even more sense that this would be an hallucination, maybe an elaborate lucid dream?”

“Or a tumor,” Bob grimaced. “With my luck, you’re a tumor. Are you a tumor?”

“No, Bob,” the stranger answered. “No, I’m real. Really here, you’re really here, and you’re not dreaming. But it’s going to get really weird in a minute, probably when you ask your next question, and you’re going to want to stop.”

Bob’s lips pursed together and he took a deep breath.

“Is your name Bob?”

The stranger smiled in a way that Bob didn’t like.

“They call me Robert.”

At home, Bob stared at the still full paper coffee cup he’d bought sixteen hours previously. A lot was running around his head – this is an elaborate prank put on by his sister, this is some kind of weird prank show, he’d been hit by a car and was in a coma, a tumor would absolutely claim to be real, he should have at least drank his coffee because this guy, whoever he was, had now cost Bob two cups of Sumatra dark roast and that shit was expensive.

They hadn’t talked any further past “They call me Robert”.  The encounter had ended with a brief awkward silence, the stranger getting up, promising to see Bob again, and heading out to the parking lot.

Bob looked up at his front door, concerned that the promise to see him again meant that he would be knocking on the door around midnight, possibly carrying a monkey’s paw or something. But the witching hour came and went, and while he still couldn’t go to sleep, Bob managed to relax a little.

He stared at the coffee cup. He waited for the hours to pass until coffee shops started opening.

“Hey, Bob”, the man who claimed to be called Robert said as Bob walked into a completely different coffee shop in Silver Lake.

Bob sighed, ordered coffee, and sat down at the table.

“Hi,” he replied. A barista set a steaming cup down next to him, smiled, and excused herself.

“What’s your next question?”

“Do I only get one a day?” Bob asked as he poured milk into the cup.

Robert chuckled.

“Yup! See you tomorrow!”

Bob didn’t laugh.

“Okay, sorry. I was trying to break the ice a little. This is probably all pretty heavy.”

“Not yet,” Bob replied. “But I feel like it’s going to be. Okay – are you me?”

“Sort of.”

Bob ruminated on this. He slowly twirled a small spoon around in the liquid, watching the milk swirl. He nodded.

“Okay, that’s a better answer than just ‘yes’, I think. Next question – am I conscious right now?”

Robert gave him an odd look.

“As opposed to, like, in a coma?”

Bob didn’t say anything. Robert seemed to think that this was an interesting question. His head shook as he sipped his coffee.

“No, but I get where the question comes from. Actually, that’s a good question. But, again, why would I tell you if you were? No, you are awake, alert, living your life as usual, except for this weird new wrinkle in it.”

Bob sipped his coffee.

“Am I going to be upset when you explain to me who you are?”

Robert considered this. He winced.

“Well, maybe not when I tell you who I am.”

Bob took a big sip of coffee. He suddenly wished he had a cigarette, which was really weird since he’d never smoked.

“Where are you from?”

Robert snapped his fingers and pointed them at Bob like a pair of six-shooters.

“There’s a good question.”

Bob waited.

“Here’s where it’s going to get hard to believe, Bob.”

Bob stared at his kitchen floor – it was hard to believe, but, maybe it was harder to believe it maybe wasn’t true.

Wasn’t it?

What made more sense? Some one found a nearly exact copy of Bob and set up an elaborate prank for a YouTube show, or that Robert was him from another reality?

Bob was leaning more and more toward the tumor theory, possibly the coma theory, because the idea that the him who lived in a parallel universe bought him coffee on his birthday was just too much to take in. Wasn’t it?

A pack of cigarettes sat unopened on the kitchen table next to a similarly sealed bottle of vodka.

“Okay,” Bob said as he walked into the coffee shop the next morning. “How?”

“Good morning to you, too, Bob,” Robert said as he pushed a cup of coffee across the table.

“And don’t fucking do that,” Bob snapped, pointing an accusing finger at the coffee cup. “Don’t fucking act like you know exactly when I’m coming in and have a cup of coffee ready, because that is really going to piss me off. It’s completely unnecessary.”

“Fair enough,” Robert said apologetically. “Would you like to order a new one?”

“No,” Bob grumbled. “I’ve wasted enough coffee over you. Alright, let’s get to it. How?”

Robert sipped his coffee, set the cup down, and folded his fingers.

“You ready?”

Bob rolled his eyes.

“Oh for fucksake, Robert,” he growled, making little air-quotes. “Cut the Dr. Doom shit, will you? How!?”

“Okay, okay, sorry. In this reality, this timeline, if you’d rather, you’re an accountant. In my timeline, I’m an experimental physicist. Two years ago I made a tremendous breakthrough that is way, way too complicated to explain and won’t mean much to you anyway, not the technical bits, anyway.”

“But basically, you’ve figured out how to step between dimensions?”

“Well, ‘dimensions’, no, that’s a misnomer. Realities, yes. Parallel universes, so to speak.”

Bob stared at his coffee cup.

“So,” he managed after what seemed an eternity. “So, why did you make contact? Do you need my help to get back?”

“Uh, no,” Robert said slowly. “Okay, so, this part is always tricky. I’m conducting an experiment – well, a series of experiments.”

Bob stared at him.

“Sorry, did you say ‘always tricky’?”

“Yeah, we’ll get into that later. But, here’s the thing – wait – do you want me to go on? Or do you need some time to process this?”

Bob glared at him.

“Okay, so, my experiments,” Robert continued, then took a sip of coffee, then continued again. “It’s not just being able to move between universes, it’s being able to travel backwards in time.”

Bob paled.

“I know!” Robert exclaimed. “In the face of all our our understanding of how the universe – or universes, really – work, you can actually go backwards. In fact, back is easy. I haven’t quite figured out forward. Honestly, backward was a total lucky fluke and I still don’t understand entirely how it works and I’m the one who designed the equipment, but…”

“Robert,” Bob said slowly.

“Oh, right, sorry,” Robert laughed nervously. “Okay, so, the idea of time paradox has always intrigued me. How do you kill your own grandfather and all that, right? How does Earth become the Planet of the Apes if Cornelius and Zira have to travel back in time after meeting Chuck Heston in the future, right?”

“How does the Terminator killing Miles Dyson prevent himself from being created?” Bob interjected, trying to get Robert to move on with the story.

Robert held up a finger.

“Right! But, no,” he replied. “That doesn’t make any sense, right? What makes more sense is that if the Terminator kills Miles Dyson, there won’t be a Judgement Day in that reality, get it? So, you can send someone back in time, but it won’t effect anything in your own timeline.”

Bob waited.

“It creates a new timeline.”

Bob sighed and continued waiting.

Robert was getting excited.

“So! Can you effect your own time?  No.  But maybe what you can do is go back and do something that would effect your timeline, and it would create a new timeline! That was my theory.”

Robert paused for dramatic effect.

Bob was getting tired of this.

“And so? Does it work? Can you go back and kill Hitler?

“You can,” Robert answered. “But it doesn’t change what happened, not in your own reality. You can’t change what happened in your history, but you can stop it from happening in a timeline that hasn’t existed yet.”

Bob blinked.

“Right.”

Bob opened the cigarettes and stared at his front door, waiting for something completely batshit to happen. So if, for instance, you kill Hitler while he’s painting in Vienna, it creates an entirely new world in which the Second World War never happens. In the blink of an eye, you just slap a new branch on the time tree. Okay, so, what if you then go and kill Werner Von Braun a couple of weeks later? No Apollo program in that timeline? But there already wasn’t going to be an Apollo program in that timeline because without a World War Two that ended in an Allied victory, Von Braun never turns himself over to the Americans because he never worked for the Nazis who never employed him to begin with and never funded his rockets. Or maybe, because there’s no Nazi Party to fund him to begin with, he takes his rocket ideas to the States in the 1930’s and the Apollo program, on a new timeline branches off of the Dead Hitler Line, is launched earlier – but why would it because now there’s no Cold War to spur on the need for long range nuclear tipped rockets or…

Holy fucking shit.

“Okay,” Bob said the next morning, ignoring that Robert had purchased him coffee again. “So where are you coming from?”

Robert checked his watch.

“Half past nine,” he replied.

Bob checked his own watch. It said it was nine o’clock. He frowned.

“Oh,” he said. “Really?”

“Pretty boring, huh?” Robert chuckled. “But yeah, I just have to jump a little sideways.”

Bob was about to ask questions about Von Braun when something occurred to him.

“Wait – why am I an accountant and you’re a nuclear experimental physicist?”

“HA!” Robert exclaimed and clapped excitedly. “THAT is the cool part! That is the experiment! Do you remember that bass that dad gave you for your fourteenth birthday?”

Bob suddenly felt his stomach flip over.

“Okay, holy shit, that’s really weird.” He swallowed. “I didn’t think about you and I having the same memories.”

“Up to the point where our timelines diverge, yes!”

“Holy shit!” Bob suddenly yelled in the middle of the breakfast rush. “That’s fucking cool!”

“Right?!?” Yelled Robert.

Bob laughed, then stopped.

“So what happened?”

Robert leaned over and grinned.

“Okay, so when dad gave me his old bass and amp for my fourteenth birthday, I played it a few times, started to get the hang of it, then one day I plugged it in, it shorted out, blew up a tube, caught fire, and nearly burned down the garage. After that happened I was kind of turned off, really threw myself into my studies, went to MIT for my Masters, Stanford for my PhD, spent some time at CERN, got private funding for…something completely unrelated to this…and holy shit, now I can jump back in time and create new timelines!”

Robert was grinning ear to ear. Bob was also smiling, but with a little more confusion.

“Wow,” said Bob. “So, a fluke happens in your timeline and the two of us go off in totally different directions. That’s pretty crazy.”

The two of them quietly sipped their coffee for a while.

Bob looked at his coffee curiously, then up at Robert.

“Wait,” he said slowly. “Wouldn’t this timeline not exist unless something happened to create it? If we were running parallel, why did your amp blow up and almost burn down the garage, but I never had a problem with it and, in fact, still have that amp in my apartment?””

Robert nodded enthusiastically.

“Yeah! You’re getting the idea now!”

“Yeah,” Bob started slowly. “Yeah, I think I’m starting to get it now.”

Something icy slid up Bob’s spine and crawled into the base of his skull and started to slither around. Slowly at first, the ugly thought began to form a dark, inky cloud that congealed into horrible realization.

He stared at the table. The milk in his coffee was slowly turning around in a beige swirl that didn’t mix into the darker liquid. He barely noticed Robert lift his cup.

“What did you do?”

Robert stopped mid-sip.

“Sorry?”

“What,” Bob said deliberately, “did you do? To make my timeline.  To, essentially, make me and everything I knew to be true until thirty seconds ago?”

Robert set his cup down and raised an eyebrow, his lips curling into a smug grin.

“I fixed the amp.”

Bob wanted to swallow but couldn’t. He couldn’t ask his question, so instead he shook his head.

“I went back to the night before it caught fire and fixed the wiring, so the next day when I went to play it – well, when you went to play it – it worked fine, didn’t catch fire, you started a band, and went in a completely direction!”

Bob’s vision swam a bit.

“So, just so I know I’ve got this right,” Bob managed. “You snuck into my garage…”

“My garage…our garage,” Robert corrected. “But that’s just where it starts getting into semantics…”

“Shut up, Robert,” Bob snapped. “You snuck into the garage, fixed the amp, and in the instant that I flipped the power switch I created a new timeline in which I traded scholastic success and the eventual discovery of time travel…to play fucking Alice in Chains at Marcy Cavanaugh’s house junior year?”

Apparently, Robert forgot entirely who he was with.

“RIGHT???” Robert shouted. “Isn’t it AMAZING??? I’m going to win a Nobel for this, easy.”

“Um, Robert,” Bob interjected. “Do you know what I do for a living now? I mean, I’m excited for your success, sure, but…do you know what I do?”

“Yeah, you’re an accountant. So?”

“Robert, I work for…I have to run receipts for dildos and lube..every…fucking…day. You, asshole, are definitely going to win a Nobel, and that is exciting, but I’ll never get to see it, BECAUSE I’M OVER HERE DOING TAXES FOR A COMPANY CALLED CALIGULA’S FIST!!! DO YOU GET THAT??? DO YOU GET WHAT ‘CALIGULA’S FIST’ SUGGESTS???”

“Hey, Bob,” Robert said calmly.

“WHAT?!?”

“They’re calling the cops.”

Lit cigarette in hand, Bob stared at the wall. Everything he knew, everyone he’d ever met, the awful smut-mongers he worked for, Marcy Cavanaugh, who got drunk and blew his drummer while Bob was off trying to score her a joint, his commencement from USC, what’s-her-name with whom he totally struck out at the commencement party and who probably went off and blew a drummer somewhere, all if was essentially bullshit created by another him who wanted to see what would happen if he fixed an amp in a garage in Glendale, California, in 1991.

“What an asshole.”

He took a long drag from the cigarette and swallowed a glass of vodka.

His coffee had gone cold. Robert was talking, but all Bob could hear was a dull murmur drowned out but a steady, high pitched whine. Something eventually swam up out of the muck and dropped into his consciousness.

“How can you not get how amazing this is?” Robert was saying.

Bob looked up at himself.

“No more ‘thought experiments’,” Robert said, doing the air-quotes thing again. His face seemed awfully wobbly, but Bob was sure that was because his blood pressure was through the roof and it was affecting the shape of his eyes.

Robert, oblivious to his audience’s condition, prattled on.

“No more speculation – you want to know what would have really happened if you’d stopped Oswald? Or if Joseph Kennedy didn’t get vaporized over France? Or Caesar hadn’t been assassinated? Or Charlemagne lost at Tours? No more questions, just go make the necessary adjustment and then observe the results further along the new timeline!”

The milk in the coffee ceased its swirling. It settled – but on closer observation it was still turning almost imperceptably. Would it just keep turning like that forever? If the forward motion of the milk ceased, was the coffee still turning around it?

Bob wasn’t aware that his teeth were clenched until he spoke.

“It’s that simple.”

A nod from across the table.

“It is that simple.”

Robert was obviously very proud of himself.

“So, whatever idea you get in your head, whatever question, grand or mundane, you can just slide over into someone’s life, tweak a little something, and kick the snowball down the hill.”

“Well, essentially, but I think you’re missing…”

“So if I wanted to know what happened if I’d slept with my friend’s wife, I could just go on and do it in another reality, see what would have happened, and leave that other me to deal with the repercussions while I sit back and go ‘aw, shit! glad I didn’t do that in my timeline!’, right?”

Robert’s smile never faltered.

Bob watched Robert’s face. There was something there – or rather, something not there. The man sitting in front of him had spent too much in other people’s realities and it had bent and twisted something fundamental in him, maybe not a lot, maybe far too much, but there was something…awful.

The coffee had gone cold, but Bob drank it anyway; he had a hunch that he didn’t want verified, but he needed an answer.

“Or if I wanted to, say, kill my dad when I was little, just because I wanted to see how six year old me turned out?”

Robert suddenly brightened.

“Yes! You absolutely could!”

Bob noticed that the coffee was indeed turning, almost imperceptibly.

“Did you?”

Robert laughed – really hard.

“Just the once. I’ll admit, it was really, really, really weird. I left the amp’s wiring alone but I also left some old oil rags behind it and when it was turned it on, fwoop! Dad went out to fight it but a couple of propane bottles detonated – oops! It really fucked you up – us, whatever – too! All the misplaced guilt from some faulty wires that were, let’s be honest, Dad’s fault anyway, led to some really dark shit. Drugs, depression, suicide attempt, all kinds of destructive behavior. Fuck, we ended up getting herpes, man!”

Robert was still laughing when the fist crashed into his mouth and loosened two teeth.

“FUCKED HIM UP, YOU FUCKING MONSTER!”

Bob punched him again.

“You unimaginable fucking monster! It wasn’t you, it wasn’t us, it wasn’t a thought experiment, it was people! People you ruined! Lives you destroyed!”

Robert got his feet under him and shoved Bob away. He reached his shirt sleeve to his mouth and gently dabbed blood away from his split lip. He shook his head.

“You never get it.”

It was like a brick hit Bob. He tried to form words as his brain tried to grip the thing that stood in front of him.

“I don’t get it,” Robert went on, oblivious to the people filming them with their phones or the barista who was calling the police. “Of all people, you should understand how significant this is, how important, how incredible, but you just never, ever do. I mean, we’re the same person, have the same brain, same basic chemistry, how do you never get this?”

The room was spinning as Robert headed for the door. Bob’s fury gave way to a sort of curiosity and he managed to follow him through the red fog.

“Is that why you came here? Why you contacted me? So that you could show off? You hoped that I, one of the guys whose life you arbitrarily fucked with, would understand and congratulate you?”

Robert was walking briskly down the sidewalk, shaking his head.

“Never!” He shouted over his shoulder. “Every time, it’s always judgement and condemnation! How can none of you ever see?”

“Did it ever occur to you that you’re the aberrant one?”

Robert took a few more steps, then stopped.

“Ever occur to you that when you come bragging to people whose lives you’ve blithely toyed with and we don’t get it, it’s because you’re fucked up?”

Robert’s shoulder’s shook with laughter. Without turning, he replied.

“I made all of you.”

He turned and grinned.

“I toy with you, because you’re all toys.  My toys.”

And then the world became blissfully clear.

“Maybe,” Bob shrugged. “But did you ever wonder who fucked you up?”

The smug snarl slowly – glacially – started to sink.

Bob took a step forward.

“Why, Dr. Kinski, does no one understand you? Maybe someone dropped in for a visit at some point in your development. Anything strange happen in high school? Someone spurn you in college? Ever think that maybe all of that isolation was engineered? Maybe someone at CERN decided that twisting you into a sociopathic monster would be a fun thought experiment.”

Robert wasn’t looking at anything anymore.

Bob glared at him.

“Just something to think about…Bob.”

He patted Robert on the shoulder and walked away.

Robert’s faculties came rushing back in a desperate attempt to blot out Bob’s words.

“Oh yeah?” He shouted after him. “You just wait til you see what I do to you next! I will take everything – everything – away from you! You have no idea the destruction I can rain on your world!”

Bob turned and smiled grimly.

“No, actually, you can’t.”

Sitting at home in the dark, the last cigarette from the pack burning between his fingers and an undrunk glass of vodka on the table beside him, Bob listened to the city outside. He looked at the shadowy pile of files on his desk, the grubby shoe box full of dildo and lube receipts, his own cheap shoes sitting by the door. He took a drag from the cigarette, felt the wash of nicotine flow through his veins and curl around inside his brain. He thought of other versions of himself, sitting in dark apartments, or brightly lit houses, or dank alleys, or morgue slabs, or daughter’s weddings, mother’s funerals, graduations, coffee shops, tops of mountains and bottom of barrels. He imagined what a furious Robert was doing at this very moment to torture various versions of himself, casting wreckage and ruin across dozens of realities, the last vestiges of his humanity slipping away as he took revenge on himself.

The room was quiet.

His eyes drifted to a small pile of change in a bowl on a small table next to the door. A bright quarter took his attention. Slowly he rose from the chair, leaving the cigarette in an ashtray, and walked to the quarter. He lifted it, regarded its two sides, mused at the possibilities. Left turn, right turn, North, South…smell the roses or drive your car through a Starbucks front window.

He made a fist, and rested the quarter on his thumb, poised to fly.

Would he change someone’s life by this simple action?

Could he change someone’s life by this simple action?

The temptation was amazing – electric. In some dark corner, deep in the lizardy bits of his brain, he understood Robert.

The quarter sat heavy on his thumb.

 

 

 

 

Odie Flynn is a science fiction writer living in Dublin, Ireland.